Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Play It Again, Sam: Some Thoughts On Sequels, Prequels and Reboots

It's summer – time for reruns on TV and sequels on the big screen.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with revisiting or reworking a show or a concept, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with leftovers. If the original idea (or dish) was compelling enough the first time, it makes sense to want to revisit it.

When you go to see a stage production of “Hamlet,” you don't mind that it ends exactly the same way each and every time. Instead, you enjoy the nuanced choices made by different directors and actors that make each performance unique. When you hear a band play live, you want the music to sound different from, fresher than, the studio recording. Being familiar with the original, core work allows us to appreciate the artistic choices made by the "players."

Re-imagining and revisiting a work of art allows us to see it in a different light and appreciate it even more deeply. How much the poorer would our home entertainment centers be if Roddenberry had given up after the original Star Trek series was canceled, if Robert Altman's brilliant film M*A*S*H hadn't spun off into the equally compelling series, or if George Lucas had retired to a low-orbit floating space mansion after the success of the first Star Wars film?

While there are, without doubt, some truly regrettable sequels, prequels and reboots floating around out there in Netflixland, that doesn't mean that the idea itself is inherently flawed. As with the pre-historic storyteller spinning campfire tales for the tribe, it's not just the story, but how you tell it. 

Random Bonus Thoughts:

Speaking of re-interpreting themes...

Today's exercise: What is your favorite sequel, prequel or reboot?

Next: Either something about ghosts or the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

*I dare you to watch it and not fall in love with Ingrid Bergman. (Paul Henreid isn't too hard on the eyes, either.)

**Bruno Ganz! Nick Cave! Peter Falk, fer cryin' out loud! (Extra credit if you were ever pierced at Rings of Desire in New Orleans.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pirate v Mermaid

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around

A Pirate Looks at Forty, Jimmy Buffett*

The shirt that inspired this post.
I have, for some time now, been considering a change in vocation. Upon reflection, I realized that of the 36 years I have spent on this planet, I have spent fewer than 36 months living landlocked. Thus my options became clear. I should pursue a career as either a Pirate or a Mermaid.

Unable to decide which is the better choice, I have made the following chart comparing the two:

Get to sail around on a really cool boat Get to breathe under water
Flattering picture hats Flattering diminished gravity
Pillaging is a lot like shopping Save lots of money buying only the top half of bathing suits. Also, free (non-faux) pearls.
The social acceptability of drinking rum at all three meals** All-you-can-eat sashimi, very fresh
Pet pirate and/or monkey Swimming with dolphins
Possibility of hooking up with the Dread Pirate Roberts Possibility of hooking up with Poseidon
Kinkiest accessory: Thigh-high leather boots Kinkiest accessory: Shell-shaped pasties
Proposed moniker: The Ginger Raider Proposed moniker: Miss Shell
Treasure Island Bodily Harm***
Romanticized vision of men who raped and plundered Romanticized vision of manatees
Possibility of an early, violent death Possibility of having to swim upstream to spawn (We're still looking into that...)
Currently enjoying positive popular sentiment because of a wildly successful Disney franchise. Currently enjoying positive popular sentiment because of a wildly successful Disney franchise.
Opportunities for posing on a windswept deck, sails billowing dramatically behind me. Opportunities for posing on a jutting sea mount, with breaking waves crashing dramatically behind me
Current greatest obstacle: sea legs Current greatest obstacle: legs

The other inspirational garment
Thoughts? Opinions? The name of a good shrink?

Today's exercise: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Next: Something about summer fairs, I think. It's been a long time since I've had a funnel cake...

I'm on a boat.
*(Insert shout-outs to McGill-Toolen High School & Mobile, AL here. Have I mentioned that I wrote a book set in Mobile? Oh, so shameless...)

**Not unlike a certain Thanksgiving I spent in Cancun, as the kids can attest. Role model!

***Not actually about mermaids at all, but my copy has mermaid lamp on the cover and it is a really kick-ass book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gossip, Rumor and Innuendo... and a Little Shameless Self-Promotion

Those of you who know me personally, especially from “back in the day,” know that I have been deeply involved in all aspects of the above – consumer, trader and subject. Some of which I regret... but less than you might think.

I regret all of the malicious gossip and rumors that I spread, both false and true. Speaking with the sole intent of harming another is not just unkind, it is wholly destructive.

I do not, however, regret telling tales as a means of forearming friends whom I thought were heading into potentially dangerous situations, physical or emotional. Nor do I regret the occasional cautionary tale. There are times when action is necessary and I believe wholeheartedly in the idea of sins of omission.

Then there is the gossip of which I'm actually proud. Those are the times when I spoke well of another, unasked and unrewarded.

As for those times when I've been the subject of such talk... I regret (almost) nothing*.

And thus we come to the point of this strange little post. As those of you without ad-block on your browsers know, I wrote a book titled, “Homecoming.” Today, I shamelessly ask your help in spreading the word.

As summer approaches and your friends mention that they're looking for a fun pool/beachside read, please suggest my book. Request it at your local library and your local bookstores. Ask your favorite news source to review it. Your recommendation has a great deal of influence, with your friends and the businesses you patronize and today I beg the privilege of borrowing a little of it.

I (rather presumptuously) thank you in advance for doing me the favor of making my book a subject in your chit-chat repertoire and promise that Friday's post will be much more fun/less shameless.

Today's exercise: Please help me spread the word about “Homecoming: A Novella,” available from Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, The Sony Reader Store, and iTunes.

Next: More fun! Less shameless self-promotion!

*If you want to know more, (like, for example, how I ended up married to my acting professor...) you'll just have to buy me a beer... maybe two.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Dark Matter(s): Some Thoughts on Darkness

Darkness encourages the use of your non-visual senses: touch, taste, sound and scent. Yum!

If you have never experienced total cave darkness, do so.

The darker the night sky, the more starlight you can see. Funny how that works.

I envy Michael Collins. To have been so utterly alone in the face of so much darkness would almost certainly change a person's perspective. Meditation in a can!

Would I trade weeks of unbroken darkness for weeks of continual sunshine? That pretty much depends on what's on HBO* that season...

If you've never swum in the ocean at night, amend this oversight immediately.

RGB! CMYK! Pink Floyd!
Fact I just made up: Every English-speaking person born between 1945 and 1977 owns or has owned a copy of “The Dark Side of the Moon.” Two thirds of them also have/had the t-shirt.**

Chocolate, wine, coffee, beer and mythology = the darker, the better.

Ordinary matter accounts for less than 5% of the mass of the universe. Dark matter accounts for 23%. Given this, if faced with the opportunity to cross over to the Dark Side, I think I'd jump at the chance. Real estate must be so much more available/affordable.

When working with pigment, black indicates the equal presence of all possible colors. When working with light, it indicates the absolute absence of color. RGB! CYMK! Oh, the fun you can have with a degree in Theater!***

Always wash your darks in cold water. Better yet – get someone else to.

Fill in the circle completely with a dark, Number 2 pencil so the machine can read your answers properly. Good luck.

I <3 Gelflings
“The Dark Crystal” was an awesome movie. I still wish I were a Gelfling. “The Dark Knight” also had a lot going for it, by which I mean it had some nice eye candy for yours truly.

Darkness was the ninth of the much-ballyhooed 10 Biblical Plagues of Egypt, after rivers of blood, throngs of frogs, lice, flies and locusts, sundry diseases and hail. It's probably just me, but I'm not sure a little extra snuggle time in the sack carried the same weight as festering boils. 

I like the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song “Dark Star,” but invariably change the lyric to “Bart Starr” in my head.

It was a dark and stormy night...

Today's exercise: Embrace the Dark Side!

Next: Maybe a piece on the seductiveness of nihilism... or a recipe for slow-cooker ribs... or something else entirely. (I should really stop trying to predict these things. I've become such a tease...)

*Shameless self-promotion: Hemingway & Gellhorn coming to HBO in 2012, featuring loads of fantastic Bay Area talent... and even me!

**All of those shirts have holes burned in them from errant concert doobie cinders, not necessarily originating with the wearer.

***Extra credit if you still possess either a lighting stencil or Mehron/Ben Nye/Kryolan powder brush.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Say You Want a Revolution?: A Call for a Yummish Summer

Even if you spend your days as I do, wrapped in a fluffy pink cloud* of Glee reruns and YouTube videos of happy kittens, you are probably still aware of the recent events in the Middle East, dubbed by the media as “The Arab Spring.” Whatever your geo-political orientation, like me, you were probably more than a little awed at seeing the tremendous power of such impressive, impassioned displays of united human will.

It really gets you thinking...

Summer is fast approaching and in the Bay Area, a middle-aged, former-vegetarian, semi-socialist, pseudo-hedonist's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of... Political Rallies - sit-ins and love-ins, marches for peace, freedom, air and sky, and summers of endless love. Having missed “The 60s” the first time around (except in TV and fashion reruns), as well as having suffered through my generation's Taco Bell-stoned, plaid flannel attempt to recreate them in the 1990s, (plus having inherited the Baby Boomer generation's sense of entitlement) I feel I am owed these public demonstrations of blissful self-righteousness... preferably when 72 degrees and sunny outside.

(I also feel I am entitled to participate in a flash mob** at least once before I die, but we'll save that for another post.)

Therefore, I have asked the Yummish Council to declare 2011 to be a Summer of YUM. For these next few months, as the Northern Hemisphere is bathed in warmth and light, – the sunny elements of life – let's all vow to be more aware of that which is good, beautiful and life-giving (read: Yummy) around us. Let's make a habit of performing Random Acts of Yum, in order to help others better appreciate that same beauty. Indulge in public displays of Yummish consumption. Hug a tree... or a puppy or a grandkid. Resist incivility. Give YUM a chance.

Give beach a chance.
When we celebrate what is joyful and delicious about being on our planet, when we immerse ourselves in all that is succulent, green, juicy, and alive, a heartfelt desire to serve and protect it arises naturally. For it's stewardship to become our privilege and our passion, we must first see our planet as the source of our greatest joy. Stopping to smell the roses is not just a pleasant diversion, but the path to our ultimate salvation!

As with any Yummish holiday, how you choose to mark the occasion is up to you and your individual tastes and circumstances (read: Yum). The Yummish are less concerned with how you celebrate than that you celebrate. Have lunch outside. Let the sun bake away all stress and thought from your mind until only white light remains. Take off your shoes and touch your toes to a patch of grass. Close your umbrella and walk in warm rain. Sweat outdoors. Ruin your shoes in the mud. Eat something wild. Sleep under the stars. Let Nature have her way with you, if only for a night. Follow your Yum!

Today's exercise: Enjoy a summer of YUM!

Next: Dark Matter(s)

*John Nichols is stunning. My copy of “Nirvana Blues” is warped with tear stains. Bliss!

**In the E'ville IKEA... ABBA songs will be involved... I have it all planned out in my sick little imagination. I should probably be medicated. (or more so)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Zombie Awareness Month

According to the Ultimate Authority on Everything, May is National Zombie Awareness Month.

Fearless Females Milla & Michelle.
As devoted fans of the Resident Evil* film series, we Yummish can attest to the necessity of increased awareness of the threat posed by zombies. The simple and frightening truth is that we are constantly beset by soulless creatures who want to devour our brains.

As plastic surgery has come a long way since George Romero's day, the modern zombie can't generally be identified visually. Most are indistinguishable from humans. Some are even quite attractive. No longer limited to non-verbal grunts and groans, today's zombie is able to expressive him/herself quite well. In fact, they tend to be extremely persuasive.

How then, are we to defend ourselves against this threat?

The first step is to learn to recognize them. As with their earlier incarnations, contemporary zombies prefer to travel in groups. Like the zombie hordes of yesteryear, storming into the city, the present-day version flocks to locations and vocations that give them access to the greatest number of victims. Also like their predecessors, they tend to be loud.

Shaun of the Dead: Bloody brilliant
After learning to recognize, and thus better avoid, today's brain-sucker, the next step is to inoculate yourself against the cause of zombism. All of the best zombie movies feature a miraculous, if hard-won “cure” and, in this case, real life is no different. Introducing into your bloodstream a healthy injection of art, science, literature and logic will help you avoid losing both your brain and your soul to mindlessness.

The final step is to develop an escape plan. Following the zombie-movie model, it is best to seek safe haven in the wilderness. Isolated and, therefore, safe from corrupting influences, only in a rural retreat can we make our stand.

This is the paragraph where I tie together the zombie analogy and the mind-rotting nature of our over-stimulated, over-marketed culture, but suspect I've been ham-fisted enough that it is probably unnecessary. Nevertheless, here we go...

Brains... We want brains...
Be cautious of anyone – butcher, baker, candlestick maker, tinker, tailor, soldier or spy – who accepts wholesale and without question, the opinion of another as fact...  And flee in screaming terror from those who would have you do the same. Do not let the zombies eat your brain.      

Today's exercise: Beware of zombies.

Next: Pretty much depends on what I watch on Netflix this weekend...

*I do firmly believe that Milla Jojovich was created in a lab. No mere mortal could be so gorgeous and talented. Girl crush!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Future: Perfect. Tense.

Bradbury. Lucas. Heinlein. Asimov. Gibson. Gilliam. Roddenberry. Dick. Le Guin. Spielberg. Huxley. Herbert. Wachowski. Wells. Clarke. Kubrick. Verne.

Today we celebrate the Oracles of the modern age – The authors and auteurs of Science Fiction.

For much of human history, we have shared stories – from heroic tales of kings and gods to lowbrow comedies of humbler men. This shared oral history helped bind us together as families, tribes and eventually nations.

Sometime* during the 19th Century, fueled by the technological firestorm of the Industrial Age, a new style of storytelling came into vogue: Science Fiction.

Rather than focusing on the past or the present, Science Fiction stories are about the future. Where storytelling had been a way of explaining to ourselves our present state – who we as a people are now and how we got here – these prophets dare to speculate on who we will become.

Through Science Fiction, we celebrate the best of ourselves – like our intelligence and ingenuity – at the same time it asks us to face, fancifully abstracted and from a comfortable distance, our greatest shared challenges. Beyond the concerns of a particular group or tribe, Science Fiction tackles larger human issues like racism, pollution, fundamentalism, and more. More than the aliens, robots, tractor beams and starships, it is this tension, the continual tug-of-war between the angels of our better and lesser natures, that makes Science Fiction so compelling.

Therefore, today we thank these voices crying out in the wilderness of fiction, intoning us to prepare the way. Through their work, we get to explore many different possible futures, both the good and the bad, giving us the chance to choose who we wish to become and the ways we may get there. By looking ahead, through the combined lenses of scientific innovation and creative imagination, we have the opportunity to shape our own destiny as a people.

Today's exercise: Flip open a book or pop in a DVD and look to the future.

Next: Updates will be sketchy between May 4 – 10, as I will be on a Yummish retreat to the Gulf Coast, eating my weight in fried seafood. Y'all come!

*It is sunny outside, thus not a day conducive to research.

Bonus: Mock me!
For your amusement, below are the results of my attempts at writing poetry for National Poetry Month.

The time before
The space between
The years until

We were one
You and I
We will be the same

Dragon Lady
Serpent's fire belly
Cosmic wings on my back
Fortune at my shoulder

I chase the wind,
Sail the sea, ride the sky,
Fall eternally, never crashing

I am eternal.
I am carbon, elemental.
I am more than I can know.